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In the Matter of Kevin Faulconer

| April 6, 2015 | 0 Comments

On Election Day last year Kevin Faulconer received five votes from the Mitrovich family; which is to say he received five votes from five Democrats.

I voted for Kevin because he was once a member of The City Club of San Diego, which means he’s been involved in my three greatest civic causes – strong mayor government, the ballpark downtown, and City Club.

But Election Day was 16-months ago, so how is Mayor Faulconer measuring up?

First, the mayor looks like a mayor. If you sent central casting a request for someone to play mayor, you would get Kevin Faulconer. And, if you further asked for someone to play first lady, you get Katherine Faulconer.

On that score, our mayor looks the part and, more importantly, performs well in his role (and Katherine in hers).
But mayors are judged not on looks but performance.

And, on performance, Mayor Faulconer has stumbled twice.
Thus far his greatest single mistake was plotting with Sherri Lightner and other council members to remove Todd Gloria as council president.

The mayor won politically, Lightner is now council president, but in the long run he will lose, because now Todd Gloria will likely oppose him next year for mayor.

The mayor’s thinking, and that of his senior staff, was that Gloria as council president would pose a more formidable threat than as a council member. In that, the mayor and staff erred.

When Bob Filner resigned, Gloria became mayor and Faulconer assumed a major council role. The two of them performed brilliantly in their respective roles, as our city was in dire straits given Filner’s scandalous behavior; uncertainty reigned, especially among city employees. It was a bad time in San Diego, in ways transcending common knowledge.

Knowing the damage done our city by Filner, both Gloria and Faulconer resolved to serve San Diego first; seeing it, correctly, as their highest duty, trumping all other considerations – including their own political futures.

In doing so they learned a critical lesson: politics is best when its practitioners allow their conscience to prevail in matters of public interest.

But Todd Gloria went further, when he decided not to use his provisional powers as mayor to run for mayor.

Kevin Faulconer made a different decision, he decided to run. But no criticism is implied in that decision. His role was different than Gloria’s.

Both Gloria and Faulconer came to speak at a City Club Saturday morning program at La Jolla Country Day School.
They gave an impressive oversight of their duties as fiduciaries of or city and when they finished they received a standing ovation – led by Dr. Irwin Jacobs.

Which raises a question: Would Gloria have made a different decision, would he have been more viable as a mayoral candidate than Alvarez?

Yes.

While the financial power structure of San Diego remains white and Republican, that is not the political reality at the grassroots, as Democrats outnumber Republicans in registration by nearly 88,000.

Thus, Faulconer’s decision with Lightner and other council members, was a decision that will probably damage him next year, because had Gloria continued as council president with the mayor’s support, his challenging Faulconer would have been problematical.

So, Faulconer’s short term political gain may cost him in the long run.

On the mayor’s second stumble: When he named his stadium task force in the effort to save the Chargers for San Diego, he named all Republicans; apparently the mayor thought no Democrat worthy of serving on his task force.

I had paid little attention to the formation of the group until Dick Enberg sent me an email saying he was disappointed I had not been named.

However, Enberg’s disappointment notwithstanding, I was okay with not having been named; I was not okay with not having been consulted.

In addition to the citizens committee I created and led in support of the downtown ballpark for the Padres, which ended up as an investment of 4,000 volunteer hours and six years of my life, I had also spent eight years as a member and chairman of the San Diego Stadium Authority – during which time significant improvements in fan comfort were made and the stadium enlarged from 52,000 to 60,000.

To be blunt, not a single person named by the mayor to his task force had anything approaching my experience as a Stadium Authority member, or my leadership of the citizens’ committee on the downtown ballpark; an undertaking approved by 59.7 percent of voters – an unheard of margin in fiscally conservative San Diego.

If your takeaway is I’m just peeved not being put on the task force, you would be wrong. When I told Dick Enberg I wasn’t upset at not being named, but rather upset in not being consulted, that is precisely what I meant – then and now.

That said, however, the mayor, knowing of my annoyance, did call and asked that once the task force’ plan to save the Chargers for San Diego is in place, would I be willing to assume a similar role to that of the ballpark’s citizens committee?

I said yes, because when an interest of our city is at stake and my help is sought, I have never said no. (Although, I allow, once he reads this column, the mayor may rescind his request.)

But to the much larger question: do the Chargers stay or go?
I am of the mind they will go, but do not confuse that with a desire they leave, it isn’t. I have consistently said the Charges are a regional asset, and given the ever fragile psyche of our town and region, their leaving would be a blow. (And the U-T’s weekday sports section would be reduced from four pages to two.)

Fourteen years on and we still have no plan for a new stadium. We had a plan that would have worked. The plan that Dan Shea of Donovan’s and his group worked diligently to put together, one that involved deeding the 168 acres at Qualcomm to the Chargers in turn for the team building a new stadium and assuming all related costs.

It would have worked and it would have saved the city nearly $15 million annually in operational costs and bond payments for the Q. (Had the Shea deal been acted upon, the city would have saved by now over $200 million!)

But none of the blame for 14 lost years is on Mayor Faulconer; that blame lies largely with Mayor Sanders, a lovely man but he doesn’t get a pass on his stadium failure.

As I’ve said of Mayor Faulconer, he has “stumbled twice.” First, in the Todd Gloria matter, and, secondly, in choosing an all-Republican stadium task force.

But while I am disappointed in his conduct in the former, and his decision on the latter, I still love our mayor – and he has time to redeem himself before 2016.
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George Mitrovich is a San Diego civic leader. He may be reached at gmitro35@gamil.com.

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